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In a glut of highly sexualized portrayals of vampirism in cinema (Twilight saga) and tv (True Blood, Vampire Diaries, etc.), the American remake, Let Me In, is a refreshing take on blood-sucking demons of the night. The two main characters are prepubescent twelve, and there isn’t a hint of sex between them (the American remake removed the pedophilic undertone of the Swedish version). Vampirism isn’t cool, it isn’t sexy, and it certainly isn’t limited to two little holes in the neck. Oh no. It’s gory, it’s violent, it’s repulsive. “I’m not a little girl,” Abby tells Owen repeatedly, though it’s hard to remember that when she’s all cleaned up, looking as sweet and innocent as children are not in this film. Less hard is when she’s dripping blood after tearing her screaming victims into pieces.

As my husband points out, the most sympathetic character in the film is the little vampire, Abby. We see her experiencing hunger pains, sad and isolated, and frankly supportive of Owen when no one else is able to help him with his school bullying problem. Owen, the doughy, pre-serial killer little boy next door, enjoys role-playing as predator with a knife when alone. The mother is an out of touch religious fanatic, the father is too distant to listen when Owen attempts to reach out to him, and Abby’s keeper is a serial killer wearing a garbage bag mask. The virile gym teacher is forever distracted and incapable of preventing the constant bullying under his watch.

One glaring flaw was the rather hokey ending sequence at the pool, which was probably camped up for puerile teen audiences. The virgin-birth-like ending, with a bloodied Abby lifting Owen up from the bloodied pool, almost makes up for it. Otherwise, the tone of Let Me In is prevailingly dreary and humorless, and all lines are delivered seriously. One wonders why the old man, Abby’s keeper, continues to hunt for her when she clearly does not require assistance – a relationship more clearly explored in the Swedish version – but it’s not a great conundrum.

The timing of the cinema release couldn’t be better, as bullying is a very hot topic in the States, in the wake of several high profile suicides linked to cyberbullying and incidents of parental outrage. Abby advises the beleaguered Owen that he has to strike back hard at his bullies in order to be left alone. He does, leaving the lead bully with a torn ear. His momentary triumph is then curtailed when the injured bully’s older brother decides to exact his own revenge. What the film is saying is that there really is no way out of being bullied (you’re either the bully or the bullied), unless you have a little vampire friend to rip your bullies into bloody pieces for you.

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